Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jewish Action -- Torah Codes and the Role of a Woman

A new issue of Jewish Action was recently published and it is not only available on the OU website without delay, but the web format has changed and the articles are now available in both HTML and PDF (link). The issue is full of interesting reading but I'd like to highlight two articles.

1. R. Mayer Twersky reviews The Moon's Lost Light, a recent book about women's role in Judaism (link). According to R. Twersky, the book (which I have not read) proposes that women's natures have changed since previous eras because we are now near the beginning of the messianic era. In the process of making this argument, the book adopts the radical (at least for the yeshiva world) stance that there is a slow process of redemption which we are already witnessing.

R. Twersky manages to gently and respectfully points out that the book's initial premise and main points are not necessarily proven and are contrary to the majority of sources. Very much worth a careful read.

2. Sarah Shapiro conducts an interview with Torah codes expert Harold Gans (link). Gans is quoted as saying:

What it does mean is that any well-trained mathematician would have recognized easily, as I did, how to poke holes in the methodology...

The main problem was that no a priori methodology was established prior to searching. A priori methodology means that all the parameters of an experiment are defined before the experiment is run. If the experiment is a priori, then a valid assessment of the expectation of the outcome can be made. If the experiment is not a priori, then it is usually the case that an accurate assessment of the expectation cannot be made.

It was only years later that basic a priori protocol for Torah Codes research was developed, though until this very day, much of the supposed “research” into Torah Codes fails to adhere to basic standards of scientific methodology.

While I'm with R. Yitzchok Adlerstein (link) and would prefer a complete disavowal of the codes, I gladly accept the dismissal of almost all Torah codes as mathematically irrelevant.

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